We spoke with Icarus Motorsports’ Duncan Ende about his first season in TCR International competition and how the category can work in North America within Pirelli World Challenge and IMSA.
This is your first season of racing in TCR International. Has the series and racing met your expectations so far?
DE: I can’t directly speak to the racing much because, frankly, I’ve been struggling for pace and watching the action from the rear so far, so I’ll have to report back on that later. The series in general, however, has exceeded my expectations in some ways, particularly the depth of the field.
What was it that attracted you to TCR in the first place?
DE: I’ve been a fan of touring car racing going back to the days of watching Tri-Point Mazdas, Realtime Acuras, and everybody else battling in the glory days of World Challenge Touring Car, so seeing TCR take the touring car world by storm I wanted to get on get on the wave too! The formula is clearly working and it’s only going to get stronger from here.
You’ve driven everything from GT3 to prototypes. How does TCR compare in terms of technology and overall feel in the car?
DE: The SEAT definitely feels a lot more pedestrian than the GT3 cars I’ve driven, but it’s starting point is pretty different than a Ferrari too. The SEAT has really wide fenders on it, a wing and splitter, proper brakes up front, but overall it feels a lot closer to the GS 911’s and Caymans I raced in the Conti series than a GT3 car. The way the car moves around and the way it works the tires definitely betrays its road car roots, and the aero effect really isn’t a huge deal.
How are you preparing for the circuits you haven’t raced on before?
DE: I’m watching a lot of onboard and when possible I’m getting some simulator time in thanks to the folks at CXC Simulations.
TCR and IMSA just announced an agreement to bring full-spec TCR cars to the Continental SportsCar Challenge series in 2018. Do you see yourself coming back home to race, or do you like the International flavor?
DE: In an ideal world I’d be racing in both Conti and TCR International! We are definitely committed as a team to TCR-I and that’s our priority, but if interest comes up to run elsewhere and it doesn’t compromise our main program we’ll jump at the opportunity. Our SEATs aren’t going to be allowed in IMSA anyway, so if we wind up in Conti it will definitely be an expansion, not a replacement for TCR International.
Touring Car racing has struggled in the United States. Do you think TCR can help bring it to fans and drivers here?
DE: I think TCR is going to be a huge success in the US. There has been a lot of hand wringing about customer cars and whether or not they are a good thing, but once teams start getting their hands on these cars I think TCR will just take off in North America. TCR has already proved itself in 24 hour races from Dubai to Silverstone and the Nurburgring, so the Conti series will be no sweat. I hope we get a healthy grid in a sprint series as well, although I don’t really know the odds on that happening.